At first glance, One Week Friends looks and feels like a cute show. The animation is gentle, the frequently flushed cheeks are awww-worthy, and the storyline about friendship is the stuff of kid shows. But the series makes me a little uncomfortable for a number of reasons, among them that I’m waiting for the bottom to fall out (perhaps it happened at the end of last week’s episode) and that our male lead, Yuki Hase, isn’t exactly a model of sacrificial giving. In fact, it’s that last point that gives me pause each time I watch an episode.
Yuki Hase’s a fun lead because he’s a bit of a mess. Self-doubting and nervous, but able to pick up his nerve and do that which grown men are too fearful to do (talk to a girl he likes), Yuki’s an entertaining character – he’s no generic plot device. Much of what also makes him compelling is the dynamic we see between his wanting to get close to Kaori out of the goodness of his heart and, more pressing as each episode advances, because he likes her. In fact, if he weren’t a bit of a basketcase, Yuki might be downright unlikeable, as the gulf between how Kaori sees him and how Yuki really is, doing this all for his own gain, is pretty large. Whether he realizes it or not, Yuki is taking advantage of a girl with an (anime invented) mental illness as he tries to develop a relationship with her. Adapt this story to live action on American television, and social media sites would have a field day with the societal-male-female interactions going on here.
At the very center of things is this – Yuki continues to have a crush on Kaori. He doesn’t love her – romantically or by any other meaningful definition of the word.
I was no different from Yuki when I was younger, mixing a genuine care for others with an exploitation of relationships for my own gain – and not only with girls. At the speech I gave at my best friend’s wedding, I recounted all the times I took advantage of him during our long friendship – how kind of him to stand by my side all that time!
My life finally changed – and I think you often see this in anime as well – when my motivations starting mingling with love. Love is inherently difficult because it’s not about you; it’s about someone else. For me, my relationship with God changed how I acted, and as I responded to Him with love rather than in selfishness, I saw an extension of that outward expression and inner transformation in my other relationships as well. Even now, I still frequently choose myself first, but my character is night and day now compared to how I once was.
I don’t know if we’ll see Yuki undergo such a transformation in a series this short. The transfer student thing seems to be the exact type of moment that will make Yuki even more obsessed with Kaori, not more focused on simply making her happy. But I think a lack of transformation would be best, too, in a realistic way – after all, how many of us were selfless in middle school? How many of us can even claim we’re selfless now?
And maybe that’s a lesson to learn. Yuki may never grow out of his selfish attitude and those around us may never either, but we can hope, and we can change. It all starts with sacrifice, as that very action, a denial of self, is after all what love is all about.